Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Blair's Thatcherism

It's half-term this week, at least in the borough of Lewisham. (For non-British readers, half-term is when all the schools have a week off.) This means my 171 bus* to work takes half the time it does when school is on to take me there. No bus load of teenagers crossing the whole of the borough to get to school; no SUVs full of parents taking their little 'uns to their schools.

This got me to thinking about Tory Blair's "choice agenda" and his announcement yesterday that every secondary school will be a specialist school in two years - as well as independent, sponsored and free of the chains of democratic accountability. I thought, I don't want my son to have the "choice" between a Catholic school a mile away, a Muslim school two miles away, a science academy four miles away and a music school five miles away; I want my local school to be a decent one. I certainly don't want a "choice" in hospitals; I want my local hospital to be decent.

I am not someone who believes that only the state should be providing services - indeed I welcome the voluntary sector doing more of the things councils often do badly, and I have nothing against the private sector - but surely everything we've seen on the railways and tubes and utilities shows us that the free market in public services doesn't empower "consumers", it gives the haves more and the have nots even less. Grrrrr.



*Blogging the 171 bus: Walky Talky: Random 3, Poetry, Rants, Woman & Power: a walk thru london - part 8 []

3 comments:

Andrew Brown said...

I've not yet read the White Paper so I don't yet know how much is spin - yeah, I know, we don't do that any more, but...

The worry for me would be if the reforms meant that we were widening the gap that already exists in the state sector.

In Lewisham we've worked hard to bring all the schools under the roof around admissions so to see that slip. And personally I'm very uncomfortable about the role of faith based institutions in education provision, but lots of other parents see that as a positive benefit.

But the truth is that we don't control schools. What we do is work with them and we'll continue to do that whatever formal powers we have.

If this agenda does lead to the have nots getting less then I'll certainly judge it a failure.

bob said...

Thanks Andrew for thoughtful comments

b

Andrew Brown said...

Just to add to the complexity I read that education may not have very much impact on social mobility after all. Oh, and that local government shouldn't be getting its knickers in a twist about this after all.